Thursday 21 September 2023

Venetia Welby, "Dreamtime"


Venetia Welby is the author of two novels – Dreamtime, which featured in The Observer’s books of the year, and Mother of Darkness. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in The London Magazine, Irish Times, Spectator and anthologies Garden Among Fires and Trauma, among others. ‘Words Once Said’ was published in The Parracombe Prize Collection 2023, for which it was shortlisted. Venetia lives near Grantham with her husband, son and Bengal cat and can be found online here, on X: @venwelby and Insta: @vvwelby.

About Dreamtime
'So, where is he then, your dad?' The world may be on a precipice but Sol, fresh from Tucson-desert rehab, finally has an answer to the question that has dogged her since childhood. And not a moment too soon. With aviation grinding to a halt in the face of global climate meltdown, this is the last chance to connect with her absentee father, a US marine stationed in Okinawa. To mend their broken past Sol and her lovelorn friend Kit must journey across poisoned oceans to the furthest reaches of the Japanese archipelago, a place where sea, sky and earth converge at the forefront of an encroaching environmental and geopolitical catastrophe; a place battered by the relentless tides of history, haunted by the ghosts of its past, where the real and the virtual, the dreamed and the lived, are ever harder to define. 

In Dreamtime Venetia Welby paints a terrifying and captivating vision of our near future and takes us on a vertiginous odyssey into the unknown.

You can read more about Dreamtime on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read an excerpt from the novel. 

From Dreamtime, by Venetia Welby
Sol notes an all-American smile of implausibly white teeth, many and strong, the troops perfectly drawn up for battle. Even the muscles in his face look powerful, his jaw broad and sharply defined, cheekbones underlining light green eyes and a low-fade haircut, dirty blonde with a sprinkling of steel. He’s mature: there’s something knowing about that grin, despite its openness. 

‘Uh, you don’t remember anything, do ya?’ The man puts his good ursine paw in front of his mouth, but Sol can tell he is still smiling by the lines that fan out from his eyes. Is he mocking her? ‘Hey, hey, don’t worry – there’s nothing to be worried about. You’re completely safe. Nothing happened, you can relax about that.’ 

Sol coughs. She brings herself upright and quickly and silently inventories herself. Her hair feels congealed, her body desiccated as the desert it came from. She still has her dress on – relief – though it’s up round her waist. 

Some guy Sol shot up with once in Tucson had the gall to imply that fucking should be an easy extension of her friendship, almost a perk of her presence, given the nature of her job. No, she explained, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Why is the word ‘escort’ so confusing to people? And in any case, sex is a valuable commodity, not to be given away freely. If it were given away freely, that – that, she emphasised – would be a seriously big thing. It would mean something. 

‘Like a “children of cobblers go unshod” kind of thing,’ the man replied before planting the needle in her shy green vein. He was British, she remembers. Dead now. 

She stares at the new man in front of her, careful to stay very still; a rabbit playing possum in a fox’s jaws. 

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